Robert Saleh spoke to the media on Friday. He gave updates on the staff changes, missing the combine due to an illness, Zach Wilson, Mike White and Derek Carr.
We haven’t talked to you in a while, could you just take care of some housekeeping and update your staff changes, the new guys on the staff?
For sure. Obviously, Nathaniel Hackett, coming in as the new offensive coordinator, excited to have him. Keith Carter, coming from Tennessee. I’ve always had so much respect for their run game and what they’ve done and how it meshes with what we try to do, philosophically I believe in, that gives defenses problems. He’s a really, really good addition. Todd Downing, bringing him also from Tennessee. His experience with quarterbacks, he was with (Matthew) Stafford in the early years of his career. He was with Derek Carr at the early years of his career and obviously with (Ryan) Tannehill during Tannehill’s resurrection, if you will. He comes with a wealth of knowledge of quarterback play, so he’ll be kind of a, God rest his soul, that Knapper (Greg Knapp) role in terms of running the quarterback room and being the main voice in that regard.
What’s this time like for you? We’re all waiting to find out who your quarterback is. What’s it like for you trying to be patient and kind of waiting for this process to play out here?
It’s like everything else. Right now, we’re studying our guys, we’re going through free agency, we’re looking at the draft, so there’s a lot of overlap with regards to what we’re doing in our day-to-day process. This morning, we’re going over some offensive scheme. In the afternoon, it’ll be defensive scheme. While we’re doing offense, defense is working on free agency and the draft and vice versa. It’s just trying to divvy up the time and make sure that we’re going through our normal process day-in and day-out. I guess you get used to it after all this time.
Can you speak to how the meeting went with Derek (Carr)? I know Joe (Douglas) spoke to us a little bit about it, but when you met with Derek back in New Jersey, how do you feel like that went?
I thought it was great. He’s a tremendous young man. He’s a father of four, obviously. His mind is in the right spot, he keeps the main thing the main thing. A really impressive young man, for sure.
Were you involved yesterday at all whether it be virtual or not when they met Derek?
No, I’ll be honest, I woke up, I went to bed two nights ago and it was my turn with the stomach bug. So, I’m just pulling myself up off the mat. I was supposed to fly out there, obviously, I didn’t make it.
What stands out about Derek on and off the field?
He’s got an elite mental makeup with regards to football IQ. He’s got tremendous accuracy and arm strength. He can put the ball anywhere you want. He’s under rated in terms of a scrambler and being able to move out of the pocket and all that stuff. He’s been asked to do a lot in his career and you just look at him, I’ve said it before, I think he’s more in line with what Stafford’s career has been in terms of if you can just get him to a place that can surround him with all the pieces to allow him to just play quarterback 10-15 times a game, it would be pretty cool. He’s a solid young man.
Is it important for you to have this done before free agency, or does that not matter at this point?
As a coach, you always want it done yesterday, right? We appreciate everyone’s process, we appreciate how everyone is going about it, we appreciate the time everyone needs. It’s just being deliberate in our process and making sure that we’re taking care of our stuff, but also being mindful and respectful for other people, too.
What stands out about this draft class to you?
You know what, I don’t even know if I can give you a fair evaluation yet because like I said, we’ve been doing self-scout, free agency, we’re just starting to scratch the surface with regards to the draft. You have to ask me that in a couple weeks. I know this is probably my last media session for a little bit, well OTAs. I’ll have a way better answer for you then.
You have Nathaniel now. Nathaniel has been in the building for over a month, however many weeks. How do you envision this offense? What’s going to be the philosophy of this offense?
There’s a lot of carryover from what Mike (LaFleur) had installed over the last couple of years. So, there’s going to be some carryover. Philosophically and how we do things will be a little bit different. I’m not going to get too deep into that right now, but excited about him. Everywhere he’s been, he’s been able to build at least a top five run game. From a play calling standpoint, it might come off different. Not to say that Mike wasn’t able to get it done, but his positivity, his aura about him, the way he goes about his business, I just think it’ll be a change for the guys for sure.
A couple of days ago Joe was saying that he feels confident that Zach Wilson will be able to reach his ceiling, and that’s pretty consistent with what you’ve been saying since the end of the year, so I’m wondering, if you acquire a veteran quarterback who’s like in his early 30’s who’s going to stick around for a while you would presume, where does that leave Zach in terms of the Jets, like two years down the road? Like what’s his future then?
That’s a good question, Rich. You can’t look at it that way, you guys know me, it’s stay in the moment and try to do everything we can to help everyone get better, be the best version of themselves they can be, so whether we bring in a guy who’s in his early 30’s and you know he’s going to be here for a while, the focus is to just help him get better, as best as he can, and if his best gets to be showcased here as a New York Jet, awesome, if not, it’s still awesome because all we want is what’s best for him and his development, no different than any other player on our roster. That’s our job to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to help them find ways to reach their max potential, as coaches, and then Joe and his staff, their job is to continue to push the envelope and finding players who can continue to maintain that standard. So, to answer your question, I don’t have it for two years from now, I don’t know what that means, I just know our focus is to try to help him get as best as he can.
Just to follow on that, his name hasn’t come up much, but where are you guys on Mike White? Would you like to have him back in the quarterback room?
Oh yeah, no, Mike, I feel like I probably should be talking about him more. Mike deserves every bit to be talked about, he should be on this roster also. You know we carried three last year, but again, he’s going through his process and it’s just something that obviously we’re keeping close tabs on.
Would you want to carry three quarterbacks, Robert? On the actual 53-man roster, would you want to do that again next year?
If you can hold it, for sure, like quarterbacks are gold. If you have three guys that you have full faith in, then yeah absolutely, you hold them, but you don’t want to hold three quarterbacks just to hold three quarterbacks, but I said it last year, I thought we had three really good quarterbacks between (Joe) Flacco, Zach, and Mike and if we’re presented with that same opportunity again, obviously you’d love to keep it that way.
What’s free agency going to look like for you guys this year? I mean obviously you improved tight end and secondary last year, you made big moves and now you seem to be closer to the playoffs, so what’s it going to look like?
Again, you guys probably should ask Joe that question, unless you did, but judicious, I guess. You know there’s certain things, certain places where we need to improve on, but obviously the draft is going to give us some of those opportunities too, the quarterback position, like we talked about, but as far as defense, just making sure that we can run it back with the guys we have and then offensively, seeing if we can be judicious in our approach.
Have you been able to have any conversations with Duane Brown and do you expect him to be back with you guys this year?
Yeah, I saw Duane in the weight room a couple days ago, three or four days ago anyway, but he just finished up his surgery on his left shoulder. Yeah, Duane is a freaking rock star, man. The way he fought through pain and injury, and he did what I’d say about 90% of players probably wouldn’t have done, in terms of playing when he didn’t have to. All his money was already guaranteed, and the guy still strapped up and played 16 or however many games for us, took it all the way to Week 17. So, a lot of respect for him, love his grind, love his grit, love what he stands for, and if he’s here, it’d be awesome.
The union put out a report card yesterday for all the teams, I’m sure you saw, and people in the building were talking about it. One of the things in there was, for your team, was that you keep players too long. I’m just curious what you thought of that criticism in that thing?
I’ll always evaluate myself, right? But I’ll check around the League, see what’s going on, in terms of, our schedule. Selfishly, I’d say it’s line with about 10 other teams that I communicate with on a daily basis, but again, if it’s a challenge from our players I’ll definitely always take a look at myself, and I’ll look inward to see if we can make things a little bit better.
With that offensive tackle position, would you feel comfortable and fine with Duane as left and Max (Mitchell) and Mekhi (Becton) competing at right side, or is that something where you feel like because of, some of it’s the durability concerns or an age concern with Duane, where you need to add another legitimate player there, to ensure what happened this year doesn’t happen again?
No, that’s a good question too, Connor. You’d love to add as many players as possible, you don’t want to force it, obviously, you want to make sure that you’re always doing what’s best for the organization and if at that time the best thing for the organization is the best player, whatever it is, you’d always love to add, more the merrier. You guys know how Joe and I feel with regards to our offensive and defensive lines, I joke about it, but to every joke there’s a little bit of truth and Joe will have 52 offensive linemen on the roster, one quarterback if he could.